Plants Vulnerable to Voles
Roots of vegetable and flower plants in the garden are fair game for voles. These rodents also gnaw on roots of young trees and shrubs especially on the bark buried under the snow during the winter months. They can kill a fruit tree. They are known as the potato mouse because they can wreck a planting of tubers. They are also called the apple mouse because they like apples so much.
Voles Damage to Look Out For
The warning signs can seem to crop up overnight. Mulched areas around your yard are riddled with intricate runways--as if someone traced a path with a stick from shrub to shrub. Or maybe your ornamental plants (think azaleas and junipers) are dying, or there's damaged or missing bark around the base of trees.
Your first thought might be that you've got moles, but chances are much higher your problem is the common vole. Sometimes called meadow mice, these tiny rodents are voracious feeders and reproducers, whose numbers swell in cycles every several years. They particularly like areas with ground covers or mulched beds since these allow them to hide out from natural predators like owls and cats.
Their will to survive--and munch on the local landscape--can frustrate even the most easy going homeowner. Orchardists report that voles can kill scores of fruit trees in an orchard during a single winter. Tree-girdling usually occurs between October and April. This is just one existing problem if you have voles. Invading gardens, they feed on seedlings and tubers and gnaw bark and roots. They build tunnels in heavily mulched areas.
Voles damage plant materials by their feeding habits and their tunnel systems, which can ruin turf as well as interfere with irrigation water patterns.
Most Obvious Symptoms of a Voles
An extensive surface runway system is the most easily identifiable sign of voles. Vegetation near well-traveled runways may be clipped close to the ground. Feces and vegetation may be found in the runways.
Vole teeth marks are very haphazard leaving no particular pattern on the bark or inner portion of the plant material. Voles will feed on trees year-round with most of their damage occurring in fall and winter. In late summer and fall, they will store seeds, tubers, bulbs and rhizomes for winter feeding.
Check bark damage carefully. If the bark was chewed under the snow, it was probably mice or voles. If the damage occurred above the snow line, it was probably rabbits. Mice and voles may chew at the snow line by walking on the snow, but never above the snow. They will not chew off a branch of a young tree as a rabbit does.